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Leopard 10.5.2: TidBITS Complains, Apple Listens, Sort Of

With the release of the recent 10.5.2 update (see Glenn Fleishman’s “Leopard Emerges from Beta as 10.5.2 Ships“, 2008-02-11), how does Leopard stand up under the criticisms I leveled at it in my article “Six Things I Hate About Leopard” (2007-10-26)? Is Leopard less hateful nearly four months after its original release, as it slowly emerges (as Glenn rightly expresses it) from what has felt like a public beta to some?

Yes and no. Or, to put it another way, two out of six. Well, two out of six isn’t bad, and, to be perfectly frank, one of the six (the loss of Classic) is something I never expected to be remedied; but one of the remaining three is so drop-dead awful that Leopard remains painful to use. Plus, some bugs I didn’t bother to complain about in my “Six Things” article remain unfixed.

Positive Opacity — Let’s start with the two things that are fixed. First, menu bar transparency. The way I decorate my computer’s desktop with my own photographs, the menu bar’s transparency rendered it all but illegible, the text in the menu bar being drowned out by the photo colors showing through from behind. For what seemed an eternity, this was just something I had to live with; then an ingenious hack was discovered for overriding the translucent menu bar, an achievement I reported and celebrated in “Transparent Menu Bar, Die Die Die!” (2007-11-16). In 10.5.2, however, you can turn off menu bar translucency by far simpler means – a checkbox! Yes, there’s
actually a preference now (in the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane), as there should have been all along.

If you’ve actually implemented the hack I reported in “Die Die Die!” be sure to remove it before installing the 10.5.2 update. Otherwise, there is a slight chance you might wind up with the system in an unpleasantly irregular state. The instructions are in that article, but I’ll repeat them. Start with these lines:

sudo defaults delete



Copy that into TextEdit and carefully remove the Return characters so that those three expressions are all on a single line, separated by a space (in other words, there should be a space after “delete” and a space after “WindowServer”, but no return characters – make the TextEdit window really wide to prove to yourself that the whole thing really is on a single line). Now copy that line and paste it into the Terminal. If necessary, press Return. Enter your password when prompted. Immediately restart the computer. That’s it! Now you can safely install 10.5.2.

Dock, Dock, Goose — Next, let’s talk about stacks in the Dock. A “stack” is the new unpleasant behavior of a folder in the Dock. The old pleasant behavior was that a folder in the Dock looked like a folder, its menu contained a hierarchical display of its contents, and you could click it to open the actual folder. I reported a workaround in “Quay Sticks It to Stacks” (2007-11-27). Thanks to the 10.5.2 update, that workaround is no longer necessary; a folder in the dock can now behave like a folder once again. As Glenn has already explained, Control-click on the folder in the Dock to bring up its contextual menu, and make these choices: Sort by Name, Display
as Folder, View Content as List. Now the folder looks like a folder; click it (without holding down the mouse) to bring up a hierarchical menu of its contents; Command-click it to open the actual folder in the Finder. This is not identical to the pre-Leopard behavior, but it will do just fine, thank you.

Those are the only two out of the “Six Things” that are fixed by the 10.5.2 update. The glittering, reflective Dock is still not officially fixed, so if you want a nice, dark, legible, compact, non-reflective Dock at the bottom of your screen, you’ll have to go on using the hack I reported in “Six Things.” The tiny, illegible type and icons in the Finder sidebar are still tiny and illegible, with no workaround in sight. And the absolutely horrible, frustrating, insanely brainless floating Help window, which lives in no particular application and blocks your view of the application you are trying to learn about, remains as a major blot on the Leopard landscape.

In addition, many bugs remain unfixed; for example, whether my computer, on waking from sleep, will automatically connect to my wireless network, or will even be able to connect to it, manually, without a restart or other drastic measures, remains a total gamble. And there are other bugs whose state I won’t know until I’ve used the updated Leopard for a while longer. The jury is still out, for instance, on whether the first keystroke in a text field after a short period of inactivity will be randomly ignored, and on whether Spaces will continue to demonstrate occasional irrationalities such as lost windows or the wrong window coming forward when you switch from one space to another, and on whether certain applications, such as
Photoshop Elements, will remain effectively unusable. Doubtless you have your own Leopard pet bugs for whose squashing your fingers will be crossed as you install this update.

Meanwhile, in a desperate attempt to end on a positive note, I should mention that menus themselves are now also considerably less transparent than before, which is a very pleasant improvement. Also, Time Machine now sports a status menu which, in addition to providing some status information about recent and current backups, provides two menu items – Back Up Now and Enter Time Machine – so you can safely remove the Time Machine icon from your Dock, knowing that you can still access the functionality that the application’s Dock menu was providing.

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